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Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging

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Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Screenwriters: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi
Starring: Georgia Groome, Alan Davies, Karen Taylor, Aaron Johnson, Eleanor Tomlinson
Running Time: 100 mins
Certificate: 12A

Gurinder Chadha's Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging is so saccharine and urgently feel-good that it's almost impossible not to admire for its blatant pandering to the teen girl crowd. Based on a series of young-adult novels by Louise Rennison, it concerns the trials and tribulations of 14-year-old Georgia Nicholson (Georgia Groome) as she traverses through adolescence facing family friction, unsteady friendships and a deep desire to snog the school sex god Robbie (Aaron Johnson).

It zings an arrow straight into the bullseye of its target demographic but will likely perplex anyone who lies outside that audience. Angus takes influence from American high school pictures Juno and Mean Girls by devising its own unique language (having a "Zitney Spears" means a getting a nasty spot, wearing a thong will get you a ticket to "Vulgaria"), yet can't replicate the smarts of Ellen Page's pregnant teen or biting satirical edge of the pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan vehicle.

Angus opens with Georgia facing the chronic embarrassment of being the only person to turn up to a fancy dress bash looking ridiculous. Her plans to go with her "ace gang" friends Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ellen (Manjeeven Grewal) and Rosie (Georgia Henshaw) as hors d'oeuvre backfires, leaving her dressed awkwardly as a stuffed olive.

Her misery is shortlived when two handsome twin brothers arrive at school. Georgia sets her sights on bagging one of them, Robbie, and throwing herself a birthday party to outdo the school bitch Lindsay (Kimberley Nixon). When Georgia's father (Alan Davies on a break from QI) secures a job in New Zealand, her life on the seaside town of Eastbourne is threatened with upheaval and her family put at risk by her nutty mother's flirtations with a beefcake builder (T4's Steve Jones).

Director Chadha is in familiar territory after guiding the teen girl hit Bend It Like Beckham in 2002. Whereas that film's lead character poignantly fought for cultural, sporting and peer group acceptance, Georgia's ordeals are selfish and never quite as challenging. There are striking similarities between both films, which only reminds you of the fact that this particular coming-of-age story has been told much better before. Angus's rigid adherence to formula, the "play it-safe-and-we'll-have-a-hit" mentality is the film's undoing.

It's quite a shame because the young cast, so often a burden in films such as this, shine brightly. Though Johnson (whose bass player is James Dean voiced by David Beckham) should be ashamed for murdering a classic Buzzcocks track with his in-movie band the Stiff Dylans. Groome, previously seen in the gritty London To Brighton, is bubbly and engaging as the mood-swinging lead while Tomlinson will be batting off Keira Knightley comparisons for the foreseeable future. Liam Hess gives a notable turn as the snogging guru who develops a crush on Georgia - his look of a deer eternally trapped in the headlights makes his smooth operator shtick all the funnier.

Angus's ultimate downfall is a lazy, contrived and completely predictable script. There is not a single plot turn, revelation or emotional beat that could be considered a surprise. Every thread resolves itself neatly, every girl looking for love finds it and Georgia's problems are wrapped up in a sugar-coated ending. Compare the brilliant, brutal comeuppance of Mean Girls's head bitch to that of Angus's Lindsay and it becomes clear just how unadventurous this film is.

Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging is a romanticised, unrealistic depiction of school politics and teen life. The subject of sex is never even broached and there's no danger of its cutesy sentiment ever slipping away to reveal hidden ambitions. It's all the more disappointing when you consider that the cast led by Groome, a bundle of insecurities and manic energy, bring such buoyancy to their characters.

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